I love kickstarting my week with Oprah’s SuperSoul Sundays because I always feel uplifted by the stories of inspiration and rejuvenated by the soothing balm of caring humans striving to be their best selves and to help others do the same.
Today’s SuperSoul Sunday featured Shawn Achor who was both a student and ultimately a teacher of the most popular class at Harvard — the Happiness Class. He is also the author of four inspirational books including The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness.
There were several key take-aways from today’s discussion that truly resonated with me. I could actually look at segments of my life and find myself nodding in agreement — a resounding YES — I have felt just like that at moments in my life. Once you recognize that you’ve actually experienced some of these rich moments in life that have filled you with joy and gratitude, you know in your heart it is possible to cultivate it more fully in life.
Here is one of those standout talking ;points from Shawn:
Happiness is the joy we feel striving toward our potential. It’s more critical to search for joy than happiness.
What really captured my attention about this remarkable observation is that I have always believed that enjoying the process is as significant as achieving a goal or finishing a project. When I am fully immersed and excited by learning something new, I feel a positive energy that keeps me motivated and engaged. I have experienced this in learning the game of. golf, in learning how to sew, and in my passion for gardening. As I put in the time to practice golf, to rip out a seam and start over, to carefully tend to my seedlings, I felt happy and rewarded by my progress. There were little nuggets of joy in each phase of my learning curve and my passion for these activities that I love just kept growing. When I accomplished my goal of bringing my golf handicap down, creating a magical Halloween costume, or harvesting a bowlful of tomatoes from what once was seedling, it was a true sense of accomplishment — and I felt a long lasting joy. I continue to thoroughly enjoy all of these fun activities and I derive a lot of joy and sustainable happiness in my life because of them.
During his interview with Oprah, Shawn noted that we can find joy even in the tough times in our life and again I found this to be relatable. I’ve invested a lot of my time and energy on mindfulness and meditation over the past few years and not only have I felt the positive changes personally, I know that these changes are noted by my family members and close friends. Others trust me to remain calm and resourceful when they are struggling. They count on me to listen and not dismiss their feelings. I feel a calm joy when I know that I have been a faithful rock for someone in need. I am grateful that I no longer let my own emotions or similar personal experiences get in the way of helping others in need. So, yes I did understand what Shawn was saying when he talked about joy in the context that it does not have to be all smiles and gaiety. There can be great joy in knowing that you have been a source of comfort. Many times this is one of the hardest things we do –” show up” for another in their darkest times.
Shawn encourages us to “practice” happiness in the same way that we practice getting better at other things in our life. Shawn acknowledges that we are all born with genes that pre-dispose us to depression, intelligence, creativity, introversion, etc. Yet we can make a choice to move away from our genes and our environment and make good decisions for a better quality of life.
He introduces us to the concept of Happiness Hygiene — creating a single positive change in our life that shows us that our behavior matters. One 2-minute habit for 21 days can be transformational. Here is his list of positive changes to adopt:
Begin each day by naming 3 things you are grateful for — they must be new ones every day!
Reflect on one meaningful experience that you had in the past 24 hours and take two minutes to write down every detail. (Rick Hansen tells us to hold our positive experiences for 17 seconds to get it to grow some roots in. our brains — this is another super meaningful way to change your trajectory of positivity.)
Write a 2 minute email, text or tweet praising or thanking someone you know. Want to boost this? — make a phone call, or tell them face to face!
15 minutes of fun mindful cardio activity — exercise trains your brain to believe that “my behavior matters”
Meditation — just two minutes of watching your breath go in and out daily can lead to improved accuracy, clarity and calm. (Shawn admits that with all our technology today, he finds himself struggling with attention deficit and mediation can be daunting because his mind races with so many thoughts. Yet just two minutes of quiet and focus on your breath makes a measurable difference.
My biggest takeaway from all of the invaluable information that Oprah and Shawn shared today is this : our behavior matters. When we put some effort into changing our happiness and our reactions, these notable changes create a positive ripple effect on others. Surrounding ourselves with people who are finding joy in the every day moments sounds really good to me.
Here’s the link to today’s SuperSoul Sunday episode: https://www.facebook.com/SuperSoulSunday/videos/449690152519728/